Defeating Evil Without Violence
This is not, as many commentators are spouting, “a 1939 moment of good versus evil.” That’s almost as banal as evil itself. For one thing Goliath, with an overwhelming number of tanks, howitzers and cluster bombs, is overrunning David with javelins and Molotov cocktails. Whitewashing the waste of lives and beautiful cities with hollow words like freedom and democracy doesn’t diminish the waste; it perpetuates it. The world is indeed “caught up in existential questions.” So let’s dispense with clichés like, “the Ukrainians are united as a democracy in a way America has not been for a long time.” Existential questions do not include superficial musings that preoccupy the mainstream media and cable TV, queries such as: “Will Volodymyr Zelenskyy live or die when Russian forces bear down? Will Ukraine exist as a sovereign nation? What does this crisis mean for the identity of America and the West?” Here are some real existential questions: Will humankind survive, not just physically, but psychologically and spiritually? Are tribalism, and its modern expression nationalism (accompanied by absurd conceptions of ‘sovereignty’ and patriotism), immutable characteristics of human nature? Or can humanity finally change course now that the fiction that people and civilization are ‘evolving’ has been demolished with the cities of Ukraine? However even these questions, which are urgent and fundamental, don’t delve deeply enough into the crisis of consciousness that human beings are facing. Beneath pressing questions regarding the human condition and the future of humanity, lay the unspoken and unaddressed “problem of evil.” That is no longer a philosophical problem for intellectuals to dabble. It’s facing all of us, as the world’s cultures and peoples become saturated with the darkness and deadness that has been accumulating in human consciousness for millennia. Clearly, the Putin regime is trying to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people. While Ukrainian cohesion and courage are to be admired, there are much larger issues involved than their sovereignty, even if that word is translated as self-determination. Systematically trying to meet evil with violence perpetuates both evil and violence. There is another way, and it has nothing to do with ideals of non-violence and passive resistance. To grasp and apply it, as individuals and peoples, we have to gain insight into the origin, nature and ultimate goal of man-made evil. Darkness is a byproduct of the unwise use of symbolic thought; evil is the impacted and intentional focusing of collective darkness through extremely morally weak individuals. We should have learned by now that evil cannot be defeated on the battlefield. The current comparisons and parallels with Hitler, Stalin and World War II attest to that. The root of this war, like all wars, is identification with a particular group as opposed to another group; that is, tribalism. Modern war is essentially the hate and grievances of tribalism carried over from man’s primitive past by the means of modern technology. If there is no identification of ‘my people’ and ‘my country,’ there is no ‘us vs. them.’ And without ‘us vs. them,’ there can be no war. The cliché, “only the dead have seen the end of war” is a disgusting apologia for the continuation of war. The fact that Russians are waging medieval siege warfare against their relatives in Ukraine attests to war’s savage atavism. As well to the fact that all war is essentially civil war, since all of us have descended, not that many generations ago, from common ancestors. The popular media in the West is engaged in an unseemly emotional voyeurism as it veers between detached military analysis of the Russian juggernaut and Ukrainian resistance, and endless stories of human suffering, separation and loss. In recent days, portrayals of heroic Ukrainian fighters — men, women and adolescents — have been augmented by heroic Americans and Europeans traveling to Eastern Europe on their own dime to “do what they can to help.” Of course the violence is a given, a backdrop to 24/7 feel-good stories of courage and “resilience.” The violence and the evil on display for every old tvtuber or young youtuber is a means to an endless end. The Mephistophelian Putin and his sick inner circle, along with the Russian officers and soldiers carrying out these crimes against humanity, are tools in evil’s endgame. Something metaphysically much deeper is going on — the systematic destruction of the human spirit and human spiritual potential. Evil is not cosmic, or external to us. It has its origins in countless individuals and hundreds of generations negligently allowing division and darkness to accumulate in the human heart. This war, which is already a world war in some ways, will run its course. Will it spread and involve WMD, or will Ukraine be sacrificed to man’s true god, war? Either way, this is the time look within ourselves and face the roots of darkness, evil and war, so that humankind may finally end war and change course in the aftermath of World War III.
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com
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